Waverly Woods plan upsets homeowners

150 people attend hearing to oppose one building for moderate-income seniors

August 10, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A plan to build 102 apartments for moderate-income seniors amid an upscale golf course community west of Ellicott City drew more than 150 opponents to a Howard County Zoning Board hearing last night.

Their lawyer, Michael P. Tanczyn of Towson, called the plan a "classic bait and switch" that virtually the entire 800-home community opposes.

"A lot of people have spent hard-earned money to bite on the bait," he told the board. "The switch part is what is before you now."

Tanczyn argued that residents bought their homes based on plans to separate moderate- income housing in three locations around the development, and now feel plans to concentrate the units violate those promises.

The Zoning Board must decide if the proposed building is compatible with the rest of the Waverly Woods community. The board, made up of County Council members, plans to continue the hearing Thursday night.

Original plans

Zoning regulations require at least 101 moderate-income units, but original plans had them divided, with about one-third in the original part of the project, and the other two-thirds included with market rate senior housing elsewhere in the development.

Developers and county housing officials want to concentrate the moderate-income units for seniors ages 62 and older in Waverly Gardens - a four story, 102-unit building close to the community's shopping center.

Some residents contend that would concentrate too many lower-income people in a building incompatible with single-family homes. They want the building's units to be sold as condominiums. But Donald R. Reuwer Jr., the developer, said it would be too difficult for people with limited incomes to pay condominium maintenance fees.

Waverly Woods is an upscale golf course community between Marriottsville and Woodstock along Interstate 70. When complete, it is to include 1,363 homes.

Reuwer testified that the original residents of the former farming area opposed Waverly Woods more than a decade ago based on "a fear of the unknown."

Now, he said, "the No. 1 point of opposition was that there may be Section 8 people in the community. A small group of people were able to stir up the reaction you see tonight. It gets people all riled up."

Reuwer said the developers got the state to eliminate a requirement for Section 8 units in the senior housing building, but would not be able to turn away people with housing vouchers.

Jared Spahn, construction manager for the project, has said there is a waiting list of more than 40 Waverly Woods residents who want to get parents or loved ones into the building. The apartments will rent for up to $925 a month for people with annual incomes under $45,000.

Suggested by county

Reuwer said that consolidating the moderate-income seniors in one building was suggested by county housing officials, who felt it would be better to have the seniors living close to the shopping center and in a building offering public spaces for socializing.

Outside the hearing, county Housing Director Leonard S. Vaughan said, "It's a lot easier to provide services. There's a lot of social benefit for seniors and a sense of comfort and support," if they live together in one building.

Reuwer wanted quick approval for the senior building to take advantage of competitive tax credits for housing and environmentally friendly construction. Those credits are at risk if plans are not approved by next month. Work on the building could begin as early as October, with the opening in February 2006.

But more than 40 upset residents attended a county Planning Board meeting June 24 and the board sided with them, voting to oppose plans to expand the proposed building from 60 units to 102.

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